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June 18, 2013

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:30 PM * 83 comments

Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand:
Wer ist die Schönste im ganzen Land?

Disney has gone on a trademarking kick lately. This has included such high-profile misfires as attempting to trademark Seal Team 6 and the Dia de los Muertos.

Less well-known in this wholesale attempt at cultural appropriation is their application to trademark Snow White in all forms except literary. “All” includes all dramatic forms and visual media, as well as bed sheets, jams and jellies, video games, and a whole Disney-trademarked laundry list of others. I suspect they left off literary because that wouldn’t pass the laugh test.

Visual and dramatic art prior to Disney’s 1937 animated feature include at least one film in 1902, the 1912 stage play by Jessie Braham White (the first time the dwarfs have individual names), a 1913 film, the 1916 movie with Marguerite Clark (Famous Players in Famous Plays) made from that stage play, another 1916 film (Snow White in the Dark Woods), a 1927 Little Snow White three-reeler, and the Betty Boop Snow-White cartoon (1933, featuring Cab Calloway singing the Saint James Infirmary Blues). Graphic representations include practically every illustrated version of Grimm’s Kinder und Hausmärchen from 1812 to date. Later works number into the dozens, including a so-racist-it-can’t-be-shown WWII-era parody of the Disney Snow White, Coal Black And De Sebben Dwarfs, Snow White and the Three Stooges, a Mr. Magoo version, 1997’s Snow White: A Tale of Terror, and the recent film Snow White and the Huntsman (and its coming sequel). The German dance-metal band Rammstein used Snow White in a transformative work (possible under copyright, not possible under trademark) in their music video for Sonne. Let’s not even mention the twist into surrealism as Snow White surfaced in the recent Mormons-Behaving-Badly Jodi Arias Murder Trial (in which it became clear that neither the prosecutor nor the witness were terribly familiar with the story, but which did get us the defense attorney rising to her feet to deliver the astounding, “Objection! Relevance, speculation, fairy tale!”).

The story of Snow White.

Once upon a time there was a queen who was sitting at her window sewing. (This is unusual in fairy tales—more commonly the women spin rather than sew.) She pricks her finger on her needle and spills three drops of blood onto the window sill. She says, “I wish I had a daughter with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as dark as ebony.

She does so, and names the child Snow White.

[The Queen dies and the king remarries.] [The new queen|the queen] has a magic mirror, which always tells the truth. She asks it “who is the fairest in the land,” and the mirror replies “you are.” Then, one day, the mirror replies “Snow White is the fairest in the land.” The queen becomes jealous of [her daughter|her step-daughter] and decides to kill her. The queen [[takes her [daughter|step-daughter] into the woods, planning to abandon her there so she will be eaten by wild beasts] [commands her huntsman to take her [daughter|step-daughter] into the woods and slay her]. [The queen does so|The huntsman, however, rather than slay the girl himself, abandons her in the woods assuming she will be devoured by wild beasts.] [The huntsman slays [a deer|a wild boar] and brings back the [heart|liver and lungs| of the animal. The queen [is pleased|commands the cook to prepare the meat, then eats it.]

The young princess wanders in the woods. Far from dying by misadventure, however, Snow White comes to the house of the Seven Dwarves while the dwarves are away. The house is [neat as a pin with tempting food set out|incredibly messy]. Snow White [samples the food (too hot, too cold, just right) and the beds (too hard, too soft, just right)|cleans the house and prepares a delicious meal] then falls asleep.

When the dwarves arrive home from a day of mining [tin|copper|gold] they discover [someone has been eating their food and sleeping in their beds|someone has cleaned the house]. They discover Snow White sleeping, wake her, and hear her story. They agree to provide her sanctuary, but warn her she must never speak with strangers.

Meanwhile, the queen asks her magic mirror who is the fairest in the land. The mirror informs her that Snow White is still the fairest in the land and that she is living in the house of the Seven Dwarves.

[The queen disguises herself as a peddler, goes to the house of the Seven Dwarves, convinces Snow White to buy a corset, and laces it on so tightly that the princess cannot breathe. She falls down dead and the queen leaves. When the dwarves arrive home they find Snow White, cut the laces on her corset, and she revives. The dwarves renew their warning not to speak with strangers.]

[The queen learns through her mirror that Snow White is still alive, so she again disguises herself as a peddler, goes to the house of the Seven Dwarves, and convinces Snow White to buy a (poisoned) comb. When she puts it in her hair she falls down dead. The queen leaves. The dwarves arrive home, find Snow White, notice the comb, remove it from her hair, and she revives. The dwarves again warn her not to speak with strangers.]

The queen learns through her mirror that Snow White is still alive so she poisons [an apple|one side of an apple], disguises herself as a farm wife, and goes to the house of the Seven Dwarves. Snow White informs her that she isn’t allowed to speak with strangers. The queen offers her an apple. Snow White [is suspicious at first and asks the queen to show it’s safe by taking a bite from it herself. The queen does so from the white (unpoisoned) side of the apple] Snow White accepts the apple and takes a bite [from the red (poisoned) side of the apple]. It catches in her throat, she chokes and dies.

When the dwarves arrive home they can’t tell what’s wrong with Snow White. But because she is so beautiful they put her in a glass coffin, with her name and position written on it in gold lettering. They put the coffin [on top of a mountain|in a forest glade|in a cave deep under a mountain].

[The king, Snow White’s father|A handsome prince] [becomes lost and stumbles on the glass coffin|hears from travelers about a marvelously beautiful princess in a glass coffin|has a dream involving a princess in a glass coffin], [seeks it out|sends his servants], and fetches it home. Along the way back to his castle [the cart in which the coffin is being carried hits a pothole|one of the servants carrying the coffin stumbles] and the piece of apple is jarred out of Snow White’s throat. She recovers.

[The king [puts aside|executes] his wife and marries Snow White|The prince marries Snow White].

[Snow White invites her [mother|stepmother] to her wedding.] [The magic mirror [does not inform the queen of the situation because Snow White is now the fairest in some other land|informs the queen that the new princess is the fairest in the land]].

[The queen accepts the invitation. On her arrival [she is so surprised by the identity of the new bride that she falls down dead|Snow White has red-hot iron shoes put on the queen’s feet and makes her dance until she falls down dead]].

The End

We skip over a mid-19th-century Swiss version in which a traveler finds Snow White living with seven men and slays her for her immorality, and the 1970s porno film, 7 Into Snowy.

The Disney version introduces the idea that a) the prince has some kind of relationship with Snow White prior to the poisoning incident, and b) the dwarves are the ones who bring about the death of the queen. The love’s first kiss theme is added. The dwarves’ names differ from those in the stage play.

Graphic and dramatic versions tend to leave off the gold lettering on the glass coffin.

So, what is my interest in this?

I myself, with Doyle, wrote a Snow White story (not based on Grimm, nor yet Disney, but on a family telling from my mother, who would have learned it from her mother (from Vienna) or father (from Bavaria). In the family version we don’t have dwarves (Zwerge) at all, but rather Zaubermenschen (magic men). The working title for our story was “Snow White and the Seven Vampires.” It was published (with an illustration, which Disney’s trademark on all graphic representations would forbid) under the title “The Queen’s Mirror” in A Wizard’s Dozen: Stories of the Fantastic edited by Michael Sterns, Jane Yolen Books, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993. Later, I re-published the story, using the frontispiece of the 1912 stage play’s printed edition in the cover art. If Disney’s trademark goes through I doubt I’d be able to do that, or, indeed, use any illustration whatever for a cover.

Comments on Sneewittchen:
#1 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:08 PM:

You left out the version where the prince takes her home, and his mother is an ogress.

#2 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:08 PM:

The king marries his daughter after [putting aside|executing] his wife?

#3 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:18 PM:

By analogy with the notion of a vexatious litigant, can we get the Walt Disney Company declared a vexatious registrant?

#4 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:26 PM:

Tanith Lee wrote a wonderful version where Snow White is a vampire, and the Queen is just trying to slay her. The apple has a piece of the Eucharist in it.

#5 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:31 PM:

What we need is for whoever it is that decides on trademarks to say, "No, you don't get to trademark common parts of western culture even if you did once make a movie using characters and situations that you had no part in creating."

#6 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:37 PM:

Steve Downey #2

Yeah. Some of the older versions are pretty rugged.

#7 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:42 PM:

DC Comics (and by extension Time Warner) may have a bone or two to pick about that, given the content of Fables. I'm sure there are other properties from other large corporations using the Snow White myth, with illustrations even.

A chunk of the "why the f*ck would Disney be this stupid" reporting is never going to happen, though. And that alone makes me sad. There's got to be names on the trademark application, but no one has actually gotten in touch with these people for an interview so far as I can tell.

#8 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:46 PM:

When Disney makes a beautiful movie with wonderful animation and music which enthralls generations of children, they do create a marketing bonanza for anything using the same images and themes. If they want to capture all the revenue that results, all they gotta do is hire some writers and have them write a sufficiently original story.

I am absolutely not expert on fair use, copyright, etc. I wrote the paragraph above, and then wondered, is there such a thing as a sufficiently original story? Given how many stories are out there, and how certain common themes underly stories, how could you never find "previous art" and claim ownership of a story? Clearly you can't make a word-for-word copy, exact copy of an image, etc., but doesn't it get fuzzy, fast?

#9 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 06:50 PM:

Is anyone actually formally contesting this? I mean, with lawyers, guns and money?

#10 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 07:03 PM:

@janetl: I'm not an expert, either, but it seems to me that, at least for the purposes of establishing a trademark, what they need is not a sufficiently original story, but just a sufficiently distinctive name. For example, the fact that The Lion King® is a registered trademark of Walt Disney Pictures isn't going to get in the way of anyone else putting on a production of Hamlet.

#11 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 07:06 PM:

This isn't copyright, this is trademark. And trademarks are forever.

So far as I am aware no one is contesting this apparent attempt at cultural appropriation.

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 07:57 PM:

My story in Missing Links and Secret Histories had some Snow White in it. There are so many small details I like across the versions, too.

#13 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 09:07 PM:

You've all read "Snow, Glass, Apples"?

#14 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 09:16 PM:

Does Jim Hines know about this? One of the characters in his Princess series is Snow White (although she only goes by Snow), and she's been on at least one of the book covers.

#15 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 09:35 PM:

Aha A relevant opinion from Forbes from someone who's probably a real lawyer

For fictional characters in the public domain (e.g., Count Dracula and Snow White), trademark protection is not available.

I'm not sure what case law he's basing that on, though.

Here's some more legal opinion

. Trademark is completely separate from copyright. The character of Thor from Norse mythology is 100% public domain, but Marvel Comics has trademark on the name Thor for their comic book super hero, so no one else can create a comic titled "Thor," even though they could use a character named Thor inside their comic.

So the trademark is technically there to prevent people from creating an animated cartoon entitled "sleeping beauty". I can't say if it will or won't be granted, though.

#16 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 09:39 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 6
I am surprised, but not shocked. And well told, that point could end up as fridge-logic.

But now I've realized I don't want an Aarne-Thompson classification, I want an Aarne-Thompson grammar.

#17 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 12:59 AM:

yaarrrgh. Disney, you're making plenty of money, shut up.

#18 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 01:08 AM:

I'm a bit surprised you didn't mention that the same year Snow White and the Huntsman premiered, so did the superior Mirror, Mirror. And then there's the TV series, "Once Upon A Time" (which is owned by Disney, so maybe it doesn't count).

#19 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 02:12 AM:

I'm not trying to be exhaustive in listing the versions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or references to them, in American popular culture, books, movies, TV shows, or graphic arts. I expect the number is in the hundreds or thousands.

#20 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 02:58 AM:

Any day I expect the Disney Police (TM) to knock on my door. I have written and published lots of Snow White stories including a recent novel called SNOW IN SUMMER based on an earlier "Snow in Summer" short story of mine. Poems, too. Gosh, lock her up and throw away the key.

Oh and Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Frog Prince, Rumplestiltskin, the lot.

I may be in prison for years and years and years. Hope someone will send me a cake with a file (TM) in it.

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 03:28 AM:

I think it came up in connection with the Games Workshop "Space Marine" affair. There's some feature of specific US trademark law that protects existing users. So what already exists is safe. Jim Macdonald doesn't have to worry about what a certain burger company does. Using his name for marketing his books is safe.

The same idea is expressed somewhat differently in the UK.

I have a suspicion that, in both our countries, a large company can use a threat of expensive court action against resource-poor parties, but they never want the case to go to court. And if you're a big company who could afford it, do you want to miss out on the chance to make merchandising deals with Disney.

So the problem isn't the law, as such. It's the incompetence of the agency which issues these monopolies. And, sometimes, there is misreporting. The British phone company Orange does have trademark protection on the colour orange, but it's a trademark on a very specific colour, used in limited ways (which you wan see on their website. When that trademark was issued, few reports mentioned how restricted the trademark protection was.

On the other hand, this is Disney, and they have a reputation for this sort of thing.

#22 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 07:27 AM:

janeyolen: They know better than to mess with the author of Briar Rose. Or if they don't, they should.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 08:10 AM:

Josh Jasper #15: To what extent is Dracula (whose basis is historical) a fictional character?

#24 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 08:36 AM:

Dave Bell writes in #21:

There's some feature of specific US trademark law that protects existing users.

If this is true, perhaps each of us should publish his or her own Snow White story right now, to establish ourselves as Snow White creators, lest we be precluded from ever writing about her.

#25 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 09:26 AM:

Clearly what we need to fight this with is a sort of Snow White Expanded Universe - Snow White and the Seven Samurai, Snow White and the Seven Against Thebes...

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 09:54 AM:

Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins?

#27 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:01 AM:

Heck,I'd read Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins.

#28 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:07 AM:

Pfusand @ #1 - which one is that? Google keeps getting me Snow White Fire Red.

#29 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:07 AM:

I'd read Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins, too, although I'm not completely sure I like where my imagination has springboarded from there.

#30 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:31 AM:

From, for the trademark "Snow White" what Disney is claiming (but does not yet have a registration number):

IC 024. US 042 050. G & S: Afghans; bath linen; bed blankets; bed canopies; bed linen; children's blankets; cloth pennants; crib bumpers; curtains; fabric flags; felt pennants; handkerchiefs; kitchen linen; receiving blankets; silk blankets; throws; table linen; towels; textile fabrics for home; woolen blankets

C 029. US 046. G & S: Fruit preserves; fruit-based snack foods; jams; jellies; potato chips; processed nuts; meat; poultry; processed fruits and vegetables

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Audio and visual recordings featuring live-action entertainment, animated entertainment, music, stories, and games for children; video game cartridges and discs; computer game cartridges and discs; video game software; computer game software; computer software featuring learning activities for children; consumer electronics for children, namely, computer hardware, videophones, walkie-talkies, telephones, radios, calculators, and accessories therefor, namely, mouse pads, wrist and arm rests for use with computers, headphones, earphones, cellular telephone cases, and face plates for cellular telephones; eyeglasses and sunglasses and accessories therefor, namely, eyeglass and sunglass cases; decorative refrigerator magnets; graduated rulers for office and stationery; hand-held units for playing electronic games for use with an external display screen or monitor

IC 014. US 002 027 028 050. G & S: Clocks; jewelry; jewelry boxes; jewelry cases; key rings of precious metal; non-monetary coins; watches; watch bands

Already registered:

IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Production and distribution of motion picture films; production of television programs; production of sound and visual recordings; production and provision of entertainment in the nature of shows, current events news, and entertainment information via communication and computer networks; presentation of live stage shows; presentation of live show performances; entertainment in the nature of theater productions. FIRST USE: 20110217. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20110217

IC 018. US 001 002 003 022 041. G & S: Articles made from leather and imitations of leather, namely, luggage, satchels, and waist packs; bags, namely, backpacks, book bags, duffel bags, and overnight bags; shopping bags of textile; tote bags; purses; handbags; wallets; umbrellas. FIRST USE: 20091029. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20091029

IC 021. US 002 013 023 029 030 033 040 050. G & S: Housewares, namely, bowls, candle holders not of precious metal, cookie cutters, cups, dishes, figurines made of crystal, or porcelain, mugs, plates, sports bottles sold empty, tea kettles, thermal insulated containers for food or beverage, and trivets; dinnerware; beverageware; plastic cups; cookie jars. FIRST USE: 20091029. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20091029

IC 025. US 022 039. G & S: Clothing, namely, beachwear, dresses, gloves, Halloween costumes, hosiery, infantwear, jackets, jeans, night shirts, night gowns, pajamas, pants, polo shirts, ponchos, rainwear, robes, scarves, shirts, shorts, slippers, sleepwear, sweat pants, sweat shirts, swimsuits, tank tops, ties, tights, t-shirts, and underwear; footwear and headwear. FIRST USE: 20091028. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20091028

IC 003. US 001 004 006 050 051 052. G & S: Cosmetics; non-medicated toiletries; fragrances for personal use. FIRST USE: 20091217. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20091217


(ABANDONED) IC 032. US 045 046 048. G & S: Non-alcoholic beverages, namely, drinking water, energy drinks, flavored waters, fruit-flavored beverages, juice base concentrates; lemonade, smoothies, sparkling water, sports drinks, table water; non-alcoholic punch; non-alcoholic beverages, namely, carbonated beverages; non-alcoholic beverages containing fruit juices; vegetable juices; syrups for making soft drinks; fruit juices, namely, apple juice, grape juice, orange juice

#31 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:33 AM:

Already registered (and in my opinion legititmate) Trademark: "WALT DISNEY'S SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS"

IC 003. US 001 004 006 050 051 052. G & S: [ Cosmetics and toiletries, namely, hair shampoo, hair conditioner, hair lotions, bubble bath, and perfumes and cologne, all for personal use by children ]. FIRST USE: 20030320. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20030320

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: decorative refrigerator magnets; sunglasses; [computer software featuring music videos, information trivia games, and animated stories for children and adults; educational software featuring instruction in math, reading and science; pre-recorded audio and video cassettes], compact discs, [motion picture films, and laser video discs] all featuring family music, stories, and entertainment. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 014. US 002 027 028 050. G & S: Jewelry, clocks, and watches. FIRST USE: 20030215. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20030215

IC 016. US 002 005 022 023 029 037 038 050. G & S: [ General-purpose paper bags;] playing cards [and greeting cards; desk accessories, namely, desk pads; ] calendars, stationery, [gift wrapping paper; paper party supplies, namely, hats, cups, bowls, party decorations, and napkins; ] stickers, [address books;] and books [and magazines ] featuring children's stories, games and activities. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 018. US 001 002 003 022 041. G & S: Travel bags, all-purpose sports bags, [backpacks, wallets,] hand bags, luggage [ and umbrellas]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 021. US 002 013 023 029 030 033 040 050. G & S: Glassware, dishes, [ paper plates, ] [figures made of china and porcelain], beverageware, [ household utensils, namely, spatulas, whisks, serving forks, serving spoons, and rolling pins, hair brushes, hair combs, lunch pails, cookie jars, ] tea kettles [, and soap dishes and toothbrushes ]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 024. US 042 050. G & S: Fabrics and textile goods, namely, [ afghans, ] bath linens, bed blankets, [ bed sheets, crib bumpers, pillow cases, comforters, curtains, dust ruffles, ] towels [, and table linens]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 025. US 022 039. G & S: Adult and children's apparel, namely, sweaters, shirts, T-shirts, [ sweatshirts, ] pants, [shorts, skirts, leggings, undergarments,] dresses,[ hosiery, gloves, scarves, mittens, footwear, ] hats, baseball caps, pajamas, [ nightgowns,] jackets, [ masquerade costumes, belts, ] ties [, and swimwear]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 028. US 022 023 038 050. G & S: Toys and sporting goods, namely, plush toys, [ collectible toy figures, ] action figures [ and accessories therefor, card games, ] board games excluding parlor-type games, dolls, puzzles, golf balls, [ golf gloves, golf ball markers, tennis balls, bows and arrows, and badminton sets, balloons, children's play cosmetics, kites, ] soft sculpture toys, stuffed toys, [ and wind-up toys ]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

IC 030. US 046. G & S: Coffee, tea, [ cocoa, sugar, tapioca, artificial coffee; bread, pastry, and flavored ices; honey, treacle; biscuits, breakfast cereals, muesli, cakes, ] candy, [ chewing gum, chocolate, white ] chocolate, cocoa mixes, cookies, [ edible decorations for cakes, bakery and frozen dairy desserts, gingerbread, table syrup, ice cream, edible ices, lollipops,] macaroni, [ noodles, ] pasta, [ pastries, peanut brittle, peppermint candy sweets, fruit gummy candies, pies, pizzas, puddings, sauces, sherbets, sorbets, tarts and waffles, ready-to-serve meals and semi-cooked meals, mainly consisting of rice, and/or noodles, and/or pasta, ] pretzels, [ corn chips, ice milk, and frozen yogurt ]. FIRST USE: 20020831. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020831

#32 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 11:06 AM:

Fragano Ledgister #23

I expect the answer is to the extent that Dracula is an immortal vampire.

#33 ::: Incoherent ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 11:43 AM:

Fragano at 26, Jim at 27 -- it exists (sort of).

Tanith Lee's White As Snow has the dwarfs as members of a mystery play troupe, representing the seven deadly sins. It's a fairly minor plot point.

It also incorporates the Persephone myth as a major plot point/theme: mother as Ceres, Snow White as Persephone, the prince as Hades. Not at all like her other Snow White story Xopher mentioned at #4 ("Red As Blood", in the collection of the same name), though both are beautiful, disturbing, and well worth reading.

#34 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Trey @ 28

I don't remember, but it was a book that collected together the oldest versions of fairy tales that the author had been able to research.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 12:40 PM:

@0: attempting to trademark Seal Team 6

Heh. I imagine Richard Marcinko might have something to say about that....

#36 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 12:44 PM:

The version of that fairytale that always sticks in my mind is a certain manga one, particularly the bits involving the dwarves as meat shields (and the necrophiliac Prince Charming, which, when you think about it, is a logical extrapolation--what other kind of person would pick up an occupied coffin and walk away with it?)

I do not like to think about what the fact that I found something with the above description particularly memorable says about me. Eheheh . . .

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 12:49 PM:

Incoherent and others: The Kipper Family, a British parody folk group, did a song called "The Seven Deadly Sins" in 1988, on their live album "Fresh Yesterday", has a long introduction which talks about the mystery play of Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins -- this clearly predates Lee (2000), who is likely to have heard it. It's available at if you want to hear it (and I recommend it -- it's howlingly funny).

"Oh when I come home at night
Me problems all begin
For there's the missus practicing
The Seven Deadly Sins."

#38 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 02:20 PM:

I want to read one where Snow White is actually a very capable and politically astute young woman, but her wicked stepmother has made her look like a childish and eccentric person. She conducts a courtship with a neighboring prince anyway, and it's the discovery of Snow White's clandestine attempt to claim some political power that leads to the attempted assassination. Meanwhile, seven dwarves from the mountains are mining for gems just on the wrong side of the border, which could get them in deep trouble with both their own king and Snow White's stepmother and possibly start a war. Snow White stumbles across their clandestine mining camp, precipitating a series of events that end up with her on the throne, the prince her happy consort, and the dwarves quite wealthy. Red-hot shoes optional.

#39 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 03:05 PM:

#1, #28, #34 ....

And here I'd been assuming it was part of the Shrek franchise....

#40 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 03:57 PM:

Pfusand @ #1;
You left out the version where the prince takes her home, and his mother is an ogress.

Isn't that the extended version of Sleeping Beauty? The one where the prince has already fathered two kids on Beauty before he gets around to waking her up?

#41 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 04:02 PM:

IIRC, there's also a version of Snow White where the king realizes his new wife is a threat to his daughter, so he marries her off to a neighbouring king to keep her safe; however the queen's envy is strong enough that she follows the princess to this new kingdom and casts the death-like sleep on her there. The king puts her in a glass coffin,remarries, but remains depressed. His new wife discovers the situation, but being pretty wise in the ways of magic herself, frees Snow White, and then the three of them live happily ever after in a poly marriage.

#42 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 06:48 PM:

By that time I don't think it's Snow White any more. (Snow White isn't the only example of glass coffins in the Grimms' collection.)

#43 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 07:02 PM:

The essence of trademarks is use in commerce. Regardless of the cultural history (which is really a copyright issue) the argument is that the mark SNOW WHITE conjures up in the average consumer's mind that particular Snow White. I'm not sure I agree with it, but it certainly has some merit.

If you think that you're likely to be harmed by the registration (yesterday!) of reg no. 4,354,191, you're certainly able to challenge it, right now (doing it during the opposition period back in May-June 2010 would have been better but that's water under the bridge).

Looking at the timing, this probably has something to do with Once Upon a Time.

#44 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 07:11 PM:

Also, Disney was one of SIX applicants to register SEAL TEAM 6 and one of four for DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (one of which registered: 3,353,201 in IC 041 to the Valence Group).

I must admit, DIA DE LOS MUERTOS is certainly a distinctive mark for jam. I kind of find it hard to believe that their 1(b) basis was bona fide for, say, eggs, though. (This is worth noting -- trademark registrations are for particular goods and services. I could trademark NEW YEARS DAY for shoes and exclude others from selling shoes branded NEW YEARS DAY. Couldn't stop a New Years Day party, unless it was promoting shoes.)

#45 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 07:52 PM:

I am a real lawyer, and I've been known to file trademark applications and send cease-and-desist letters, though it is by no means my specialty (as in-house counsel to a midsized company, I don't have a specialty, though I do get invited to cushy seminars by IP firms who want my business). The purpose of trademark law is to protect both vendors and consumers, so that you know, for example, that the Sony TV in one of my company's stores was really made under Sony's auspices and subject to its quality standards. The trademark functions to identify the origin of the goods. You can only register a federal (there are state trademarks, too) trademark or service mark (trademarks apply to goods and service marks to services, but the standards are basically the same, and from now on I'm just going to say "trademarks") to apply to goods and services that you are or will soon be selling in interstate commerce. (I registered the name and logo of a restaurant we thought we were going to be opening three years ago, and I am about to run out of extensions.)

If you look "Snow White" up on TESS, the USPTO's trademark database, you'll see that lots of people who aren't The Walt Disney Co. or one of its affiliates have registered "Snow White" as a trademark for various goods such as (how original!) flour, sugar, and marble amalgam roofing material. Even if their registrations didn't antedate Disney's, Disney could only stop them from registering and/or using the mark if Disney were also selling flour, sugar, or roofing materials under the mark. Disney can only register and protect the mark for a particular kind of goods (e.g., Snow White afghans and bed linens) so long as it is selling that kind of goods. You have to re-register your trademark every few years, and when you do, you have to certify under penalty of perjury that you are still using that mark to sell that kind of goods in interstate commerce. If you're not, you'll be deemed to have abandoned the trademark, and anyone who wants to sell Snow White brand bed linens can start doing so.

My point being, Disney can't just glom on to "Snow White" for every conceivable type of goods and services and exclude other people from using it indefinitely. It can only keep "Snow White" to apply to goods and services it is actually selling (or licensing the sale of) in interstate commerce. And it certainly can't use trademark law to keep anyone from publishing a story featuring a character called Snow White, whether that character is a beautiful pale-skinned European princess or a six-seven African-American guy named a la Little John. It's copyright law, not trademark law, that will keep you from using the images or dialogue from the Disney movie without a license from Disney, whether in a book or on bed linens or glassware, just as it protects Trina Schart Hyman's beautiful illustrations, or Tanith Lee's stories.

@Xopher: Was Snow White a vampire in Red as Blood? All I remember is that rhyme the queen used to summon the dwafts: Blood to blood, wood to wood, thee to me.

#46 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 08:00 PM:

Also, what BSD said, much more succinctly than I did.

#47 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 08:59 PM:

etv13: Yes, Snow White was a vampire in "Red as Blood". Also in "Snow, Glass, Apples". Really, it's a bit obvious: skin white as snow, lips red as blood?

#48 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 09:53 PM:

...sleeps in a coffin. Although not one that provides much protection from daylight, oddly enough.

#49 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 09:57 PM:

David, that "white as snow, red as blood" thing is a Celtic myth theme. It goes with "black as a raven's wing."

Frex when Deirdre goes out walking in winter (despondent over her betrothal to a nasty wicked old man), she comes upon a raven devouring a duck, and has a vision in which she's told that her true love will be a young man with hair as black as the raven's wing, cheeks as red as the blood on the snow, and skin as white as the snow itself.

No sooner does she come out of this vision than up comes Naoise, a young man who fulfills all these specifications.* He greets her in all innocence, and she grabs him by both ears and says "you're going to run away with me this very evening!"

He flees her the minute she lets go, and goes and asks his older brothers "Do I have to run away with this beautiful but clearly deranged woman?"

They respond "Well, that depends. Did the power of the Goddess rise upon her?"

"Well...yeah, I guess."

"Sorry dude. Gotta do it."

So they run away to Scotland together, are hunted, captured, and much death and weeping results.

*He's drop-dead gorgeous to boot. There is apparently a lot of erotic poetry in Irish extolling the beauty of Naoise. Since Dierdre was the most beautiful woman of mortal birth in all Europe, this is a good match by some standards.

#50 ::: Xopher Halftongue is among the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 10:00 PM:

I suspect a Word Of Power (which phrase I was going to acronymize until...I realized I'd better not).

#51 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 02:21 AM:

Xopher@49: aren't white and red kind of a Thing in Celtic myth even without the black? I'm thinking cattle and dogs, white all over except for red ears and feet...

#52 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 02:47 AM:

Red, black, and white are the sacred colors in Celtic myth. Dunno about the red and white without the black.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 10:15 AM:

Jim Macdonald #32: I suppose so. Given that Dracula the immortal vampire is based on Vlad Tepeş the historical character, I'd call him semi-fictional unlike other vampires who, being entirely creatures of the imagination, are entirely fictional.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 10:17 AM:

Incoherent #33: Neither my wife nor my bank account will thank you for having me seek out anything by the incomparable Tanith Lee!

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 10:56 AM:

red horses white to the knees and the hocks, too.

#56 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:11 PM:

My non-lawyer understanding of trademark is that it is solely concerned with how a product is marketed. Specifically it is intended to protect consumers from buying the wrong product because they were confused about the identity of the item's maker. This should have no direct effect on the contents of a story, though it could affect the title.

I can think of two relevant examples from the world of comic books. Marvel and DC have jointly own the trademark on "superhero", and have done so since 1979. This hasn't prevented independents from publishing stories about superheros, it has only prevented them from using the word on the covers. Captain Marvel is a trademark owned by Marvel Comics. Captain Marvel (this guy) is also a character created for Fawcett Comics and later licensed to and finally bought by DC Comics. Again the trademark hasn't stopped DC from publishing stories about Captain Marvel, but it has stopped the company from using the name on covers and other marketing stuff. As a workaround the character has typically been referred to in those materials using "Shazam", the word Billy Batson uses to turn into his superhero alter-ego. This has caused many people to think Shazam was the character's actual name, so last year DC officially changed Captain Marvel's name to Shazam.

#57 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ #53:

The story of Bram Stoker basing the vampire Dracula on Vlad Tepeş is itself more fictional than is generally realised.

#58 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:18 PM:

Xopher, little pink beast: "White with red ears and feet" describes, if you observe carefully, most all-white animals; light shines through their thin ears and illuminates the blood vessels, and paw pads and suchlike are often pink-colored.

I picked up, through study much less in-depth than Xopher's, a sense that all-white animals of any sort were typically at least messengers of the supernatural, if not actually gods in disguise.

#59 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:43 PM:

Indeed, Rikibeth. If you follow a white animal in Celtic myth, it will take you to the Otherworld. Especially if you cross water...which is why Irish elopement myths so often involve running away to Scotland.

#60 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:44 PM:

Oh, and: that's why most white horses are called grays. They have white hair with black skin. There ARE "true whites" who have pink skin.

#61 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:50 PM:

What I find particularly interesting about the motif of "following a white animal leads to the Otherworld" is that it applies to Alice and the White Rabbit, too.

#62 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 01:58 PM:

That one follows several themes. The shamanic transition into the underworld is in there, too. Whether Rev. Dodgeson knew about these folkloric motifs or not, I have no idea.

#63 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 02:24 PM:

Rikibeth @ 61... And to Star Trek's "Shore Leave".

#64 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 02:51 PM:

Re: @51 -- Arawn's dogs are described as "red and white" with particular emphasis on having "red ears."

Arawn, is Lord of the Dead, and leader of the Wild Hunt. IIRC, his red and white hounds eat the souls of oathbreakers.

#65 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 03:28 PM:

Eh, well, Disney is the same company that marketed the Frog Princess as their very first African-American heroine and completely ignored three years of Disney Gargoyles*, with an African American (and Hopi) heroine. They're very good at making up stories to suit their current marketing strategy.

(*Granted, I have no desire to see Elisa Maza remade as a Disney Princess.)

#66 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 05:51 PM:

Rikibeth, #61, Xopher Halftongue #62: Alice In Wonderland has a lot of shamanic properties -- speaking beasts, personal transformations, various psychopomps, and so on. So does Through the Looking Glass, but while Looking Glass follows dream-logic (and indeed, is lampshaded as such). Wonderland, however, bears the character (and allusions) of hallucinatory drugs, which of course have been used since ancient times for shamanic experiences.

#67 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 05:53 PM:

I can offer some ice cream....

#68 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 01:24 AM:

I wonder if Patrick or Teresa or some of their co-workers have some practical experience with this matter over at Tor Books. I remember that Tor published an edition of "Tarzan of the Apes" some years back. I think the book is in the public domain in most countries. However, the Edgar Rice Burroughs family has trademarked the name Tarzan. Did Tor Books have to be careful in marketing its edition of "Tarzan of the Apes" because of that trademark?

As for Disney, my guess is that the only real use for a Snow White trademark is to fight against works that are trying to look like the Disney version of Snow White, not just any Snow White. Their targets might include those cheap direct-to-video knockoffs of major animated feature films. The 1990 Filmation animated feature "Happily Ever After' might also be a target, since it's meant as a sequel to "Snow White", and it could be argued that most consumers would connect it to the Disney movie, and not, say, the silent film version with Marguerite Clark.

#69 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 07:09 AM:

TARZAN is an excellent example. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. has it for books, movies, videocasettes, hamburgers and a bunch of other stuff (they use to have more but some, like breakfast cereal and clocks, were cancelled, presumably for nonuse). Other entities have TARZAN for mop yarn and fans.

#70 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 08:05 AM:

Jim Meadows @68 As for Disney, my guess is that the only real use for a Snow White trademark is to fight against works that are trying to look like the Disney version of Snow White, not just any Snow White.

Sure. Except they already have that pretty well sorted out. However here's what happens if a large multimedia company happens to get a bit over enthusiastic with protecting their properties.

1. Some high up tells the legal department "Make sure you've got all the rights tied up."

2. The legal department goes through everything they've ever made or thought about making with the name of/image of/slight allusion to one of their properties and claims and registers everything to do with it. Because, hey, the more stuff they own the better, and if they miss something, the high up will be unhappy.

3. (Presumably) They get a young and enthusiastic or possibly lazy and uninterested person to handle anything they think is a violation. That person takes a quick look, thinks maybe it's using their property in some way. Perhaps they pass it to the boss. Either way, they send out a cease and desist letter/DMCA takedown/Youtube complaint etc. because, why not?

4. Whoever gets this letter stops because if they're smaller (less rich) they know they can't fight this company in court, and if they're an internet provider they have to, or they have a deal with this large multimedia company to do so. And so it rests, their claim unchallenged.

#71 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 09:02 AM:

Jim Meadows #68: There was a brief discussion of that in "Tales of a Party Princess", where non-licensed performers need to be very careful to not quite use the Disney costumes, logos, and in some cases names.

#72 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 10:57 AM:

The difference being that ERB created Tarzan himself. Disney is taking an entire body of pre-existing work, without which they wouldn't have had a product in the first place, and shutting the door to others who might want to use that same pre-existing work.

With the trademark in place would it even be possible to put on a revival of Ms. White's 1912 stage play?

#73 ::: Joerg R. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 01:15 PM:

By chance one music channel plays the official video of Rammstein's "Sonne" right now. Very heavy on the Snow White imagery, with interesting twists. Still SFW.

#74 ::: B. Durbin is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 11:34 PM:

Jenny Islander: "I want to read one..."

Sometimes the only way to get what you want in those circumstances is to write it yourself. Consider this encouragement to do so.

#75 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2013, 03:53 PM:

On why you don't kiss young ladies without their permission: Sleeping Beauty

#76 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2013, 03:59 PM:

Re: Rikibeth @ #61 "What I find particularly interesting about the motif of "following a white animal leads to the Otherworld" is that it applies to Alice and the White Rabbit, too."

Then following the White Stag out of Narnia means...?

#77 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2013, 06:02 PM:

Which one's the Otherworld depends on where you're standing....

#79 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2013, 10:34 PM:

Jim, Bruce, I am SO GLAD I swallowed the mouthful of Diet Pepsi I had before I opened those links.

They're brilliant.

#80 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2013, 10:31 PM:

I've just started reading Seanan McGuire's excellent Kindle serial (you buy it once and chapters show up regularly until it's done) Indexing, which is mindblowingly meta and involves a protagonist who was almost 'a Snow White' type.

Alas, only available for now via Kindle (or Kindle app on your something-else), but it's very good.

#81 ::: Stephanie Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2013, 01:40 PM:

"First Snow White, then the world!" It's really unfortunate that this is where we're at, but I suppose that's Disney for you.

#82 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2013, 01:45 PM:

The biggest problem I see with Disney's rights-grab for Snow White is in the example that GW gave when they claimed trademark on the words "Space Marine" and blocked the publication of a book with those words in its title.

So there's precedent for worry.

#83 ::: Tom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:27 PM:

A bleak picture of such a future is in Spider Robinson's Melancholy Elephants. Hopefully Disney will be politely but firmly shown the door...

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